- Peaks: Sugarloaf, Lone Wolf
- Type: Loop
- Time: 4.7 h
- Distance: 7.4 mi
- Elevation Gain: 2211 ft
- Hikers: Dan, Alex
- 11:30 AM Start hiking from Roaring Kill
- 1:15 PM Join with Devil’s Path (3mi)
- 2:15 PM Summit Sugarloaf (4.1mi)
- 3:00 PM Rejoin blue trail at Pecoy Notch (5.3mi)
- 4:15 PM Back at the car (7.4mi)
5:00 PM Arrive at Lone Wolf
- Tracks: AllTrails, eBird
- Conditions: Cold (30s) with light snow and ice
In the last post I described “hiking tetris”: there are many different goals, especially with multiple hikers, and different peaks help you towards different combinations of those goals. The only one that contributes to my Fall list, my 2023 list and Alex’s 3500 Club list is… Sugarloaf! So Sugarloaf it is.
Sugarloaf was my very first high peak way back in 2016 but I’d never been back. It strikes a distinctive profile along the horizon (it looks like a “sugarloaf”) and it’s possible to do it as a very short hike from Mink Hollow (a steep ~3 miles). I proposed to Alex that we hike Sugarloaf and stop by Lone Wolf. This prompted immediate protests: “I’m a one peak kind of gal!” Protests led to chuckles when I reminded Alex that Lone Wolf was a new cocktail bar in Kingston that we’d been meaning to check out and not a high peak!
Since we had the whole day to work with, I suggested that we do a loop hike from Roaring Kill. A bit longer, but significantly less steep, at least if we did the descent towards Pecoy Notch on the east side. We listened to the Science of Birds podcast on the ~1h30m drive up and were ready to roll by 11:30 AM. A bit later than I’d hoped, but probably OK for a six mile hike with a 4:30 PM sunset.
One minor hitch: it’s deer hunting season and hikers are strongly encouraged to wear bright, reflective clothing. We were reminded of this when a hunter drove past us in the parking lot. My jacket was black and Alex’s was dark green. Fortunately we’d stashed some bright green reflective vests in the car years ago for exactly this reason. Alex is always prepared!
There was patchy snow at the start of the hike, along with mostly-frozen mud in places. I realized as we started hiking that this was my very first Catskills hike in November. This makes some sense: it’s an awkward month for hiking because it doesn’t feel like fall (the colors and leaves are long gone) but it also doesn’t feel like a true winter hike yet.
Alex with reflective clothing
Bruce span worm moth
The walk towards Mink Hollow was a long, gradual ascent. We only saw one other hiker. He quickly passed us, then passed us again going the opposite way. He was only wearing sneaker with ankle socks and got spooked by some ice on a descent. Given the terrain we were about to encounter on the way up, he made the right choice!
So while Alex put on spikes and started up the steep path to the left towards Sugarloaf, I dashed down to Mink Hollow and back. These few hundred feet were entirely unmemorable, but if I ever want to do the All Trails Challenge, this might save me a trip!
The beginning of the steep Sugarloaf ascent along the Devil’s Path
We’d read that the ascent to Sugarloaf from the west was extremely steep, and so it was. The first bit was very rocky. But then we arrived at a kind of airy ledge with amazing views across to Plateau on one side and frozen waterfalls on the right.
Sure enough, we had to hike up the waterfalls! This was a little touch and go in places, but I felt great with my spikes and I really enjoyed this terrain. (Alex might tell a different story.)
As we got higher the terrain started to level out a bit, but there was a new source of excitement: bear tracks! I’ve never seen a bear in the Catskills, but they’re certainly around. Everyone says that the bears are more afraid of you than you are of them, but Alex counters that she’s “very afraid of bears.” We made lots of noise and this encouraged us to move quickly through this section. We ran into one other hiker going the opposite direction who said he hadn’t seen a bear. We never did see it, though we also saw some claw marks on a tree lower down.
Bear claw marks on a tree
I’d hoped we’d summit by 2:00PM. In reality it was 2:15. A little behind, but not too bad. Given the bear, the timing, and the windy, near-whiteout conditions at the summit, we decided to skip the lookout and our lunch (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) at the summit and keep moving. I had the sandwiches in my jacket to warm them up (no one likes a frozen PB&J) so I figured the bear would come for me first!
Who’s happy and who’s exhausted?
It felt great to be descending instead of climbing. It felt like we were flying along the gentle downhill terrain. The descent towards Pecoy Notch was steep in places but nowhere near as bad as the ascent from Mink Hollow. We spotted a Hermit Thrush foraging on the ground along this stretch.
The terrain along the Pecoy Notch hike was pretty interesting in its own right. There was an old quarry where some people (hikers? cub scouts?) had built a blue stone throne (apparently this is Dibble’s Quarry).
We also ran across a bog. Not a common sight in the Catskills, but it jogged a memory: was this the place where Max had insisted there was a campsite back in 2016?
We took off our spikes at the bog and were quickly back to the car 15 minutes before sunset. There was a surprise rainstorm on our drive down to Lone Wolf, another bullet dodged! After a long day on the trail our cocktails and sandwiches were delicious.
Alex has 13 peaks left for her 3500 list and I have eight left for 2023. Between the holidays and a two week warm weather vacation we’re taking in December, there aren’t many hiking days left. Time to bag some more peaks!